The Next Evolution of XaaS: Automation as a Service

In the digital era, purchasing software and hardware outright is being replaced by an everything-as-a-service (XaaS) subscription model. And when you add robotics to the equation, a new concept is emerging – Automation as a Service (AaaS).

In a recent blog, we talked about the increasing role the cloud is playing in warehouses and distribution centers. Another theme that’s closely related to the cloud is the “as-a-Service" business model, where IT resources traditionally purchased outright and managed on-premises — including software, infrastructure, and computing platforms are moving off premises and being “consumed” (i.e., rented or leased) via a subscription model. So, software becomes SaaS, infrastructure becomes IaaS, and the platform becomes PaaS

While these delivery models are gaining popularity, there’s another type of “as-a-Service” that’s quietly disrupting the tech and professional services industry: Automation as a Service, aka AaaS. One AaaS provider describes the service as “packaging research, education, consulting and execution under a fixed price per-process model.” Let's take a closer look at what that means and whether it's a potentially viable option for your business.

How the IoT is Enabling a Special Kind of AaaS — RPA (Robotic Process Automation)
We’ve become accustomed to the as-a-Service model in the way we consume media and utilities. But, it’s the internet-enabling of devices — the Internet of Things (IoT) — that’s unleashing new possibilities for AaaS. According to research from Accenture, the Industrial IoT could contribute $14.2 trillion to world output by 2030. Consider the possible scenarios. Instead of buying forklifts to move inventory, for instance, a company would pay for the number of lifts performed.

The real value of the AaaS, according to the World Economic Forum, will come from new value creation made possible by the massive flow of data from connected products, and the increased ability to make automated decisions in real time.

When you combine the IoT trend with robotics, it creates a whole new kind of AaaS — RPA (robotic process automation). RPA is more than a trend; it’s a different way to think about how business processes are solved, delivered, and managed. Robotic automation further empowers business advisors, knowledge workers, and other staff by removing mundane tasks and allowing them to spend their time on parts of the business process that are customer-centric and not rule driven.

Humans and machines on their own won’t be enough to drive business success in the coming decades. Tomorrow’s successful enterprises will be those that know how to meld the two effectively. Per Accenture’s research, AaaS delivers proven results, including:

  • Reduced compliance risks and business risks 
  • Elimination of human error
  • 40%-plus increase in FTEs’ (full-time employees’) ability to focus on customer outcomes
  • 40%-plus reduction in average handling/cycle time
  • 30% to 80% reduction in processing costs
  • ROI achieved in quarters vs years

RPA Challenges
Despite RPA's enormous potential, implementation challenges can be severe. Careful planning is needed with particular attention paid to the following areas:

  1. Security. Concepts such as user identifications for robots and “robots authenticating robots” are foreign to most IT departments and must be addressed to secure internet-enabled machinery, which will become a new attack vector for cybercriminals.
  2. Build or buy? While automating, customers have a big decision to make: build robotics capabilities or purchase them? If looking to purchase, one has to consider the providers' existing skills and third-party providers they might need to connect with to provide such services. 
  3. Metrics. Measuring the impact of RPA remains a challenge due to lack of defined parameters. As this gets deeply ingrained in provider offerings, metrics must be created and tracked to determine whether an automation project is a success or failure.

Each of the above implementation challenges is solvable and should not detract from RPA’s ability to open new avenues for organizations and providers to explore, and to effect large-scale transformation. In the digital economy, businesses will compete on their ability to deliver quantifiable results rather than physical products. To achieve their outcome goals companies will increasingly rely on business partners and connected ecosystems using advanced analytics and data streams from smart products to gain timely insights about customer behaviors and requirements.

Our team of project managers, engineers, and analysts can assist and support you through your DC automation evaluation and implementation process from start to finish. Contact us today via phone (+1 856.727.1100) or online to learn more.

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